a night was the norm for most Americans. These days, the average American sleeps for around 6.5 hours a day, and if you’re a full time student chances are you get even less. So how DO we all function with so much less sleep? That’s a whole night of sleep, missing from our lives each week. Unfortunately, cutting back on sleep seems to have become the norm in our society.
Studies have shown, however, that we need 7-8 hours of sleep a night to be high-functioning during the day. It is a common belief that sleeping in on week-ends will somehow balance out the sleep debt incurred during the week. However, once one starts cutting sleep during the week again, there is a significant effect on alertness, mood, and performance. A study in 1995 found that there is significant sleep loss in 1/3 of American adults. This state of perennial sleepiness has been estimated to cause about 2-56 billion dollars in sleep-related accidents on the road each year, and even more in lost productivity, medical illness, or shortened lifespan secondary to sleepiness or sleep pathology.
Due to both the normal aging process and modern societal pressures to succeed, our hours in bed are continually sacrificed. Those who work the graveyard shift tend to accumulate the highest amount of sleepiness, as they are sleeping during a poor circadian time. Also, the advent of electricity has, in some ways, interfered with our natural circadian rhythms. The primary reason is that melatonin, a hormone implicated in helping us fall asleep at night, is only produced in the absence of light. When light hits the retina, a signal is sent via the optic nerve to the pineal gland that causes melatonin production to cease. With our ability to create artificial light (i.e. computer screens and television), the release of melatonin is delayed until these appliances have been turned off. Melatonin supplements often work to help restore one’s natural circadian rhythm, yet too often this is not enough. For many people, the next alternative for staying asleep is to purchase prescription sleep aids. Although drugs may help, they have a short-term effect which fades rapidly once you stop taking them. This makes it necessary to continually renew your stock of sleep aids, which, monetarily speaking, adds up quickly, and often becomes addicting.
Chinese herbs offer a different kind of solution. Traditional Chinese Medicine has treated the insomnia cycle for hundreds of years. The theory needs explaining first. It is all about a reversal of the energy of our spirits. It’s up at night, in our head stimulating our brain rather than sleeping in our hearts where Chinese medicine believes our spirit is stored and nourished while we sleep. When our heads are thinking too much at night it does not allow the heart to rest.
Chinese herbal medicine is extremely effective at curing this type of short-term insomnia problem. Herbal medicine calms the mind, nourishes the blood (the heart), anchors the spirit (figuratively) and allows the heart to settle quietly into a natural sleep. It’s non- addicting, and, after used for a short period of time, acute insomniacs can again return to a normal sleep pattern without the use of herbs. If you have not yet tried Chinese herbal medicine for your sleeplessness, you need to find a good acupuncturist who can help you with the right prescription of herbs which will make all the difference in both your nighttime and daytime hours.
Cathy Margolin is a Licensed Acupuncturist and consumer health advocate with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health through the use of Chinese herbal formulas. She enjoys impacting the lives of readers around the world who haven’t yet experienced the phenomenal health benefits from the ancient wisdom of Chinese herbal medicine. She currently maintains an Acupuncture & Chinese herbal medicine practice, writes herbal formulas for her patients and works at PACHerbs.com.